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Shrek The Musical at New Alexandra Theatre - Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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You'd Have To Be An Ogre To Not Enjoy This
With vibrant sets, clever special effects and plenty of tongue-in-cheek dialogue, Shrek The Musical has all the slick trademarks of a top-notch West End show.

Shrek the musical, Birmingham, tour
Romance and comedy in Shrek The Musical


Heading out across the UK, the latest tour stops off in the Midlands twice - at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre until 25 February and then Regent Theatre in Stoke on Trent from 2 to 13 May.

Although it's an all singing-all dancing affair with inventive new songs, it is based on the story and characters of the famous DreamWorks animation film that picked up an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 2002 Oscars.

Shrek The Musical is colourful beyond belief with no expense spared on flamboyant costumes, animations, puppets and special effects that make the world of castles, swamps, ogres and dragons seem so realistic.

Shrek the musical, tour
Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad - his short legs are the highlight of the show


The two and a half hour show gets underway with a huge storybook featuring pop-out characters and clever animations. You know you're in for something spectacular when this is just the starting bar. A multitude of scene changes follow with set after extravagant set as we follow Shrek on his adventure with Donkey to rescue Princess Fiona from her tower for the evil Lord Farquaad.

All the favourite fairy tale characters from the film are alive and kicking (and singing) too using inventive costumes and gadgets that children especially will love.

Among them is the gruff-talking Gingerbread Man; Pinocchio with his growing nose; Little Red Riding Hood and the high-pitched Three Little Pigs, who have all been relocated out of the city to Shrek's swamp by Lord Farquaad in a "family-friendly" version of a purge on more diverse communities.

Shrek the musical, tour
Shrek saving the princess


Despite some adult themes, it's carefully pitched at a level that appeals to both children and adults, as in any good pantomime. And this is a pantomime in many ways with jokes ranging from silly fun with farts and burps to the more risqué double entendre that go over the heads of the youngest viewers. It does, however, have a recommended age guidance of five and over.

But the most laughs of all are created by the tiny legs of vertically-challenged Lord Farquaad. Stealing the show is actor Samuel Holmes as this villain. His brilliantly choreographed and enthusiastic performance ensure side-splitting moments whenever he is on stage.

Although he has to spend most of the show on his knees, even when he's standing up is carefully worked into other gags. It's a fantastic piece of script writing and movement detail to make Farquaad so funny. I looked forward to every time he was on stage.

Shrek the musical, tour, Birmingham
A laugh a minute caper


Holmes isn't the only one bursting with energy and part of the success of this production is down to the vibrancy of all the main players - Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona and Lord Farquaad.

They all seem to love every minute of the adventure, right down to the finale of song I'm A Believer.

Steffan Harri, whose repertoire in comedy musicals includes Spamalot and Little Shop Of Horrors, seems to live and breathe the character of Shrek and is very comfortable and agile in the bright green padded hulk of a body suit.

Marcus Ayton gives Donkey the right amount of sass while Laura Main's Princess Fiona is more of a high maintenance, anxious, love-obsessed singleton than in the film version.

Shrek the musical, tour
The Gingerbread Man is one of the characters in Shrek The Musical


As an aside, the tour is directed by Nigel Harman - known as baddies Dennis Rickman in EastEnders and Mr Green in Downton Abbey - whose done a good job of giving this touring production the same glossy sheen of high quality seen in the West End. Harman knows the show well as he won an Olivier Award for his performance as Lord Farquaad in the original London production of Shrek the Musical.

Shrek The Musical is one of those shows that can't help but lift your spirits. It's exciting, clever and very, very funny. You'd have to be a miserable ogre to not want to see it.

RATING:

Shrek The Musical Tour

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
Until 25 February
Tickets cost from £17.50 to £62.50 from the New Alexandra Theatre website.

Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent
2 - 13 May
Tickets cost from £17.50 to £55.50 from the Regent Theatre website.

The UK tour continues until January 2019 across the UK. For further information, visit the Shrek The Musical website.
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Why? Hilarious musical version of Shrek
When: Touring in Midlands until May
Phone: New Alexandra Theatre- 0844 871 3011 or Regent Theatre, Stoke - 0844 871 7649
Where: New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham and Regent Theatre Stoke
Cost: From £17.50
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by Alison Brinkworth on 06/03/2017
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